Mary McEldowney '40 Evanson

Mary's Haleakala

By Shiyana Thenabadu

“We are perhaps at the noblest of our species, when our heart, our hand and our voice rise to defend the other species that live on our planet. For me, that's what I think of when I think of Mary Evanson.”

Dr. Arthur C. Medeiros, research biologist and coordinator of the Leeward Haleakala- Watershed Restoration Partnership

Mary McEldowney '40 Evanson first saw Haleakala crater in the 1930s when she was a teenager. The road to the top of the crater had just been completed, and Mary remembers spending a very cold night in the old Kalahaku rest house. The following morning, she watched the sun rise from the top of the crater and there began her love affair with Haleakala. But it was not until she retired and moved to Maui that she was able to fully embrace and protect this special place.

Mary Evanson on a hike in Haleakala. Photo courtesy of Mary Evanson

Born and raised on O‘ahu, Mary grew up in Wahiawa where her father was a forester for the Hawaiian Sugar Planters Association. Mary and her brother Robert Armstead McEldowney '38 attended Punahou where Mary was a boarder at the Hash House (Castle Hall) during her senior year. Mary's three children, Tom '66, Carole '68 and Bill '76, are also Punahou graduates.

Mary says she has always enjoyed exploring the outdoors. "Living in what is now the Wahiawa Botanical Garden, I was exposed to nature," she explains.

Mary learned the meaning of the word "conservation" at a very young age. On a hike in the Ko‘olau Mountains with her father, Mary remembers seeing a lone ‘ohi‘a tree
that was dying and a hillside that had been devoured by animals. She can still hear her father's voice: "Something can be done to help this place through conservation."

Mary's conservation activities and successes will fill volumes. She has been a longtime member of the Sierra Club, and in 1997, founded the Friends of Haleakala National Park (FHNP). She says her greatest accomplishment, however, is preserving the pristine beauty of Kalepeamoa, a wilderness area located about a mile from the summit of Haleakala along the Southwest Rift Zone. Mary led a group that opposed a TV antenna farm from being constructed in the area and pushed to find an alternate site, a resolution that satisfied both parties.

Mary has recently thrown her weight behind the FHNP's "Adopt a Nene" program ( This program educates and raises funds for the endangered species of Haleakala that includes the 250 nene that live in the crater.

Mary says that Hawai‘i has given her a wonderful life, and she has a responsibility to give back. "I am talking to people about having a natural history museum on Maui. ... There are no other islands like ours on the planet and our residents, visitors and students know so little about them."

She says, "I don't have any money but I do have a treasure box full of precious memories." She remembers the gorgeous yellow-flowered silversword near Pu‘u Mamane; carrying a baby goat in a backpack from Kapalaoa; the wonder of seeing a full moon in the crater; searching for Kalepeamoa and finding it - "awesome!"; the thrill of hiking the Halema‘uma‘u trail to the edge of the crater to savor what Mark Twain called "healing solitudes of Haleakala."

Last fall, at age 84, Mary hiked into the crater and spent four "glorious" days with friends. "Hiking into the crater is easy; it's hiking out that is tough," she laughs. "Maybe with the help of a horse, I'll do it again."